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Andrew Thomson

Dr Andrew Thomson

Senior Lecturer in Conflict, Terrorism and Security

Room: 26.01.006; +44 (0)28 9097 2526



Andrew Thomson holds a PhD from the University of Kent. He is part of the Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict and a fellow at the Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast.  Externally, he is on the executive council of the Conflict Research Society Conflict Research Society (CRS).


Andrew Thomson’s research interests include pro-government militias and civilian defence forces, dynamics of violence in civil war, counterinsurgency and "irregular" warfare, and the Colombian peace process. These broad research interests are divided into three strands. First, he focuses on the role of militias and mercenaries in US foreign policy. His book, Outsourced Empire: How Militias, Mercenaries and Contractors Support US Statecraft, examined US support to various non-state armed forces in US interventions around the world. Secondly, Andrew examines the effects pro-government militias various dynamics of violence during civil conflict.  Finally, he also focuses on the current peace process in Colombia in the context of multiple armed groups. He completed a project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund on how FARC members’ interactions with other armed organizations influenced their disarmament process. He is currently working on a project examining negotiations between the government and the AUC in 2003 at Santa Fe de Ralito and what lessons these might offer us for negotiating with these types of actors.  This also focuses on partial peace and the move to “total peace” in Colombia.

Andrew leads a collaboration between Queen’s University Belfast and the Institute for Economics for Peace to create a Northern Ireland Peace Index, the first measure of positive peacefulness in the region.  During AY 2022-2023 a series of events will be planned for this.

Andrew also works with the Asociacion Jorge Freytter and the Conflict Research Society.  He hosted the annual Conflict Research Society conference at QUB in September 2022.

He is currently also working on a book project titled “A Short History of the War on Terror”

Andrew is open to considering supervision of PhD projects around those three research focuses or more broadly on in the areas of conflict analysis, political violence and US Foreign Policy.


Dr. Andrew Thomson currently teaches on a variety of classes at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels: PAI 2055 Security and Terrorism; PAI 3038 US Foreign Policy; PAI 7007 Global Terrorism; PAI 7028 Violence, Terrorism and Security. He also contributes regularly to a variety of other classes in areas such as conflict intervention, conflict transformation and peace processes, international security, international relations, among others and specialist classes such as at the Institute for Global Peace Security and Justice Summer School.



  • Outsourced Empire: How Militias, Mercenaries and Contractors Support US Statecraft. London: Pluto Press, June 2018.

Peer Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters

  • Thomson, A., FORTHCOMING book chapter “Civilian Defense Forces and Violence Against Civilians” In Civic Vice, Civic Virtue: Militia’s in Theory and Practice edited by Will Wittels and Paul Johnson. London: Routledge. 
  • Thomson, A., FORTHCOMING book chapter “El proceso de desarme y la percepción de inseguridad por parte de los guerrilleros que declinaron las armas tras el Acuerdo de Paz en Colombia” in Balance del cumplimiento del Acuerdo de Paz en Colombia (2016-2022) (provisional title).  Edited by Alexander Mirena Ugelde and Iratxe Perea Ozerin.
  • “From Control to Conflict: A Spectrum and Framework for Understanding Government-Militia Relationships” in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Early online 11 September 2022, with Dale Pankhurst
  • “US Support for “Civilian Defence” Paramilitaries in Iraq and Afghanistan” chapter in Paramilitary Groups and the State Under Globalization: Political violence, elites and security edited by Jasmin Hristov, Jeb Sprague-Silgado and Aaron Tauss. London: Routledge, 2022. Pp. 183-201.
  • “The Credible Commitment Problem and Multiple Armed Groups: FARC Perceptions of Insecurity during Disarmament in the Colombian Peace Process” Conflict, Security and Development. Online First 27 July 2020.
  • “The Ties that Bind: Ethnicity, Pro-Government Militia and the Dynamics of Violence in Civil War” in Journal of Conflict Resolution. 12 November 2019. with Govinda Clayton and Luke Abbs.
  • “Ethnic Conflict and Militias” in The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity edited by Steven Ratuva.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2019.  10.1007/978-981-13-0242-8_41-1
  • “A Precarious Peace? The Threat of Paramilitary Violence to the Peace Process in Colombia” Third World Quarterly, 39(11), 2142-2172, 2018. With David Maher.
  • “Civilianizing Civil Conflict: Civilian Defense Militias and the Logic of Violence in Intra-State Conflict.” International Studies Quarterly February, 2016. With Govinda Clayton
  • “Applying Marxism to Critical Terrorism Studies: Analysis through a Historical Materialist Lens”. In P. Dixit, & J. L. Stump (Eds.) Critical Methods in Terrorism Studies (pp. 33-46). New York: Routledge, 2015. With David Maher
  • “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend... The Dynamics of Self-Defense Forces in Irregular War: The Case of the Sons of Iraq.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 37(11), 920-935. 2014. With Govinda Clayton
  • “The Terror that Underpins the “Peace”: The Political Economy of Colombia's Paramilitary Demobilization Process.” Critical Studies on Terrorism 4(1): 95-113, 2011. With David Maher

Book Reviews

  • Book Review of The Para-State: An Ethnography of Colombia’s Death Squads, by Aldo Civico in Bulletin of Latin American Research. 2017.
  • Book Review of State Crime on the Margins of Empire: Rio Tinto, the War on Bougainville and Resistance to Mining, by Kristian Lasslett. Critical Studies on Terrorism. 2015. 10.1080/17539153.2015.1081012
  • Book Review of State Violence and Genocide in Latin America: The Cold War Years edited by Esparza, M., Huttenbach, H. R., and Feierstein, D.: State Crime 1( 2), Autumn 2012.: 275-278
  • Book Review of Hristov, Jasmin. Blood and Capital: The Paramilitarization of Colombia. International Affairs 86(6) November 2010: 1473-1475.

Other Papers and Publications